IWSHLYPart 3. –
The first full Scooby meeting at the end of what had been a relatively quiet summer began, as it had the previous year, with Buffy and Spike prepared to give a rundown of the coming year’s most memorable events.
“So, what was going on during this month in your time, Buffy?”
The suddenly uncomfortable tension in the room stretched out as Winston tried to recover from his innocent question.
There was a long pause before Buffy said, "You’ll have to ask Spike. I wasn’t around."
"Wasn’t much happening,” Spike finally broke into Winston’s stammered apologies for being so thoughtless.
“Rupert, Red, and I patrolled, sometimes with the–” He stopped, obviously remembering they’d glossed over the Buffybot’s existence when talking about how the previous year developed. “All of us patrolled,” he said with a nod toward Xander, Anya, and Tara. “Did what we could to keep vamp numbers down and hide the fact that Buffy was…. not around anymore.”
“Did that work?” Giles looked incredulous.
“Well, the keeping her absence a secret was a little easier than you might think…. but it probably wasn’t working as well as we hoped,” Spike said with a grimace. “It’s not like her spectacular dive off Glory’s tower didn’t have any witnesses. Or like any of us was hiding his emotions very well, but as long as we kept the vamp numbers down and nobody cried in public…”
“And it was summer,” Buffy put in, resting a hand on his arm when she could see how the memories were affecting him. “So, pretty slow in terms of evil running amok. It probably wouldn’t have worked much longer.” She paused and bit her lip, then shrugged. “You guys were doing great, but you really needed a…. slayer.” Buffy glanced at Willow, who was already cringing in anticipation of being scolded for what she knew she’d done in Buffy’s timeline.
“I know it probably seemed like the right thing to do at the time, Will. You had no way of knowing…. anything, really. I mean, obviously you knew Giles wouldn’t–and Spike probably… but you couldn’t know why they wouldn’t have….” She exhaled. “You haven’t done those things, you aren’t going to now, so stop looking at us like we’re going to hate you.”
Willow tried for a smile, saying, “But future me kinda indicated I tried to end the world. Which… I can’t imagine that, but if I said I did it–”
“In my time, you had your very best friend since kindergarten to talk you down.” Buffy smiled at a shocked Xander. “And in Winston’s time, you had…. something else that stopped you.” She carefully avoided looking at Winston, having long since understood that he and Willow probably had a magic war that she’d lost.
She could see Willow wasn’t fooled. Her letter to herself had been very specific, and she’d had a lot of conversations with Winston since then. Her eyes flashed a little as she looked at him, but her tone was calm when she said, “Yeah, apparently there was somebody else more powerful than I was around… then.”
Another uncomfortable silence reigned as even those not fully aware of what had gone on in Winston’s time caught the gist of Willow’s momentary anger.
Giles cleared his throat. “So, Spike, what were you doing during this undoubtedly painful time?”
“My job,” he said shortly. “Looking after the Bit and providing muscle so the Slayer’s idiot friends didn’t get themselves killed tryin’ to do her job.” He paused. “And drinkin’. A whole bloody lot of drinking.”
There was another silence, broken when Buffy said with false cheerfulness, “So, what do we think about that demon gang? Wait for them to show up, or get ready for them and stop them at the edge of town?”
Spike gave her a grateful look as he said, “They came because they knew you weren’t here. There’s no reason this time for that word to go out into the demon world, so if they’re smart, they won’t even show up.”
“They’re demons, Spike…”
“Point taken, love,” he said with a grin. “Alright then. Stop them at the town limits it is. Who’s with us?”
Buffy beamed when every hand except Anya’s went up.
“What?” Anya said when Willow and Xander stared at her. “You don’t need me. You’ve got Buffy, who kicked their butts before, right? When she was just out of her grave.” She looked to Buffy for confirmation. “Now you’ve got her, Spike, Willow and Winston. Xander and I don’t need to be there.” She sat back, quite pleased with her logic.
“Anya’s probably right,” Spike said with a smile at her. “If we catch them off guard before they have time to spread out and start wreaking havoc, we should be able to take care of any of them too stupid to turn around and leave.” He frowned. “I hope it isn’t too easy. Need to get myself another bike.”
“Spike, we have money! You canbuy yourself a motorcycle if you want one.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Reacting to the bewildered expressions around the room, he clarified. “Had to take his bike away from one of the ugly buggers so the Bit and I could find out what was going on. Not like I could leave her alone in the house with demons rampaging around, is it? And she couldn’t keep up with me runnin’, so we needed transportation.”
“Well, we did,” he muttered as Buffy shook her head at him. The smile on her face belied the way she was trying to seem disapproving.
“Do we have a date for this event?” Giles asked, in an effort to get the meeting back on track.
“Know exactly what day it was,” Spike said softly, reaching for Buffy’s hand. “We’ve got another month yet.”
Tara understood first, giving a little gasp. They all watched as Spike kissed Buffy’s fingers and held a whispered conversation that trailed off when they switched to mental communication. It was easy to see the understanding spread throughout the small group, and Buffy squeezed Spike’s hand and sat up straighter.
“So, demons first,” she said. “The rest of the year… I don’t know. We tried to put a stop to Warren’s delusions of grandeur last year, and we talked to Jonathan the year before, but that’s no guarantee that they won’t try to be pains in my butt again. I guess we can follow them around closer this time and try to stop any evil stuff before they get too into it.”
After giving everybody a quick rundown of some of the things the Trio of Wankers (as Spike referred to them), had done in their time, Buffy and Spike left the others to talk about how much they could do to interfere with what were just human villains. The fact that they had used magic and demons to commit some of their crimes, including making Buffy think she’d killed someone, had Winston exchanging looks with Giles that didn’t bode well for Warren and his buddies.
“So, quick patrol and then what? Home to bed?” Spike wiggled his eyebrows and leered at Buffy who shook her head and laughed, but groped him anyway. He growled his appreciation and pulled her into an embrace. “Did you want to start now, love?”
Buffy peered around him and shook her head again. “Down boy,” she said, pushing him away. “I think we have a situation.”
Spike sighed, but released her and turned around. “What the hell?”
Facing them was a bewildered-looking blue demon, and behind him was Andrew, holding some sort of amulet and saying, “That’s her. Get her!”
The demon made a sound that seemed a great deal like “Huh?” before advancing tentatively toward Buffy. He cast one eye at Spike, who had let his own demon out, then stopped and turned to look at Andrew again.
“Get her!” Andrew said, his voice becoming shriller as the demon didn’t obey and Spike began to growl. “I command you to attack them!”
“I wouldn’t, if I were you, mate,” Spike said, dropping his vampire mien and smirking. “This is the Slayer. She’ll have you for lunch. Metaphorically speaking,” he added when Buffy said “Ewww!” and glared at him.
The demon said something to Spike that made him shake his head, then repeated it in Fyarl. Spike responded in the same language. The demon then rolled his eyes, and muttered a Fyarl version of an apology before turning to glare at Andrew, who was rapidly retreating toward a black van with an open door.
With a loud “Eek!” Andrew dove through the door, throwing the amulet at the advancing demon who picked it up and sneered before crushing it under his foot. Without another word or look at Buffy or Spike, he ran off in the general direction the van had taken.
“Well, looks like Andrew is on the same path,” Spike said. “But his demon-summoning skills are still pretty shaky.”
“What was that one?”
“Dunno for sure. But he spoke Fyarl, so must be from this dimension. Who knows where the idiot summoned him from?” He put his arm over Buffy’s shoulders. “What do you want to do about him, love? Should I eat him?”
Buffy snorted. “Andrew would probably like that, and he’d want you to turn him.”
Buffy laughed. “Well there you go, then. We’ll have to find another way to keep him from going all evil on us.”
“If he was jumpin’ out of that van, he’s already hooked up with at least one of those losers,” he pointed out.
Buffy sighed. “Yeah, I guess he has. Well, I’m not going to worry about it this early on. If we catch them doing something they shouldn’t, we can try to convince them to change their ways.” She frowned. “I think I’ll try to find Katrina and warn her about Warren, though. I don’t know exactly when he tricked her into drinking with him. Or how long they had her before she tried to get away and got killed.”
Spike growled and Buffy shuddered. “They really were pretty evil, weren’t they? We make fun of Andrew and Jonathan, but they went right along with everything Warren did.”
“Souls didn’t do them much good,” Spike muttered. “I know demons with more morals than that crew of wannabes.”
“I think I’m old enough now to understand that not all evil is non-human and soulless,” Buffy said with a sigh. “But that doesn’t change what my job description is. I can’t be the whole world’s cop. All I can do is fight evil when and where I find it.”
“And the hellmouth is the most likely place for that,” Spike said with a nod toward the entrance to the cemetery they’d been planning to patrol.
“And that’s why we live here,” she agreed, leading him through the gate and deeper into the darkness.
The short patrol turned up only two newly risen vampires, one of which Buffy staked before he was even all the way out of his grave.
“That wasn’t very sporting of you, pet,” Spike said, putting his arm around her.
“Would you rather I wasted a lot of time fighting him, or would you rather I did it efficiently so we could go home sooner?”
Buffy gave him a sideways glance as she ran her hand over his jean-clad rear.
“Efficiency is my middle name,” he said quickly, snorting in surprise when she then squeezed one cheek. “Tryin’ to tell me something, love?”
“Just reminding you that I’m here,” she said. “And that I like your sexy butt.”
“I never forget that you’re here, sweetheart. Or that you like my fine arse,” he added, dancing away from her half-hearted swat. “It’s all yours as soon as we get home.”
When Buffy walked into the Magic Box the next day, she was surprised to find Giles, Winston, and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce sitting around the table in the back in deep conversation. She walked up to them, eyeing Wesley with suspicion.
“Hi, Wes,” she said, then turned to Giles. “And what’s he doing here?”
“He had some questions about Angel’s claim and how you learned of it. And he wanted to talk to you in person.”
“So you can go back and tell Angel? Did he send you?” Her cold stare as she turned back to Wesley made him shrink back in his chair. The fear on his face reminded her that he’d had some very unpleasant experiences with Faith in her time, and she wondered if his obvious fear of her meant that Faith had behaved similarly this time.
Mentally scolding herself for not having tried to keep track of what Faith was doing after they sent her away, she tried for a more conciliatory tone.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “It’s not you I’m mad at.”
“For which I am sure he is very grateful,” Giles said with a wry smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
When Buffy saw the same look of mild disapproval on Winston’s normally friendly face, she sighed and pulled out a chair.
“I am sorry, Wes. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m not really feeling as homicidal as I was when I first figured it out.”
“If what you said is true, you had every right to be furious with Angel and anyone who may have supported him.” He shook his head. “But surely you understand that even a former watcher would never condone such an outrageous abuse of your trust?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m pretty sure he didn’t brag about doing it. Even Spike says he probably meant it as another layer of protection when he first did it. Since the bite was already there, he just marked me so maybe other vamps would think twice about biting.”
“But I assume he didn’t let it go at that?” Wesley frowned.
“Of course he didn’t. Bloody wanker that he is…” Spike’s voice preceded him even as his silent approach to the table startled everyone except Buffy and Wes, who had seen him emerge from the basement. “He didn’t tell you about it, then, when you left here?”
“Only to say it was for Buffy’s own good,” Wes responded. “And to tell me in great detail why it was such a terrible idea that she had allowed you to bite her.” He gave Spike a challenging glare, which faded as Spike just shrugged and leaned down to kiss Buffy before turning a chair around to sit beside her.
He crossed his arms over the top of the chairback and stared back at Wesley. “Why don’t you tell him the rest of it, love?” he said.
Buffy exchanged glances with Winston and Giles, reading in their expressions that they weren’t yet ready to let Wesley know about the time travel. She nodded and smiled at him.
“Well, you know I had a… thing… with Angel when I was in high school. I thought I was in love with him, and it broke my heart to think he might die, so I goaded him into feeding from me—”
Spike’s explosive and snarled, “Don’t give a rat’s ass how sick he was, ‘s no excuse for tearing you up like that or almost draining you!” had Buffy’ pausing to soothe him and give Wesley time to relax again.
“So, anyway,” she continued when he’d subsided to grumbling, “it seems that while I was unconscious, he put a claim on me. Of course, I didn’t accept it, or even know about it, but before the fight at Graduation and then after he left me—Sunnydale—every time we spoke, he always asked me if I was still his girl. And, of course, I said ‘yes’ ‘cause that’s what he wanted to hear. And that’s kinda how I felt, you know? Like he was my forever love and even if we weren’t together, I would always be his girl.” She stopped talking and glanced at Spike. “I was wrong about that, but I still felt a connection to him. And it got in the way of being able to appreciate what I had.”
Wes frowned at them as they exchanged smiles and moved their chairs closer together.
“So, he basically tricked you into renewing a claim you never knew existed….” He was silent for several minutes, clearly rethinking what he knew about his boss. Then he raised his eyes to Buffy again. “And how did you figure this out?”
“I thought she showed you,” Giles said. “When you and Angel came here last spring?”
“She seemed to indicate that Spike had put a claim on her, and that it was mutual. But that seems….” He glared at Spike. “Why would she do that? Just because you’ve been helping her?” He turned his gaze back to Buffy. “How could you do that if Angel had already done so?”
Buffy nudged Spike’s arm. “You’re on, vampire guy.”
Spike shook his head. “It was a half-assed claim at best,” he said. “With Buffy not having knowingly accepted it, and them not seeing each other or talkin’ all that much, I had no trouble putting my own mark on the other side of her neck. May have been a bit trickier if I was right-oriented, but I bite to the left, so the only effect it ever had on me was to make me mildly uncomfortable about kissing that side of her neck. I never thought to ask myself why I stayed away from that side.”
“All it did to me, was keep me from falling in love with anybody else….” She smiled at Spike. “Or keep me from admitting it to myself, anyway,” she said. “I got older, and smarter, and—”
“And you fell in love with William the Bloody? Who, last I heard was searching for the Gem of Amara so he could kill you? Exactly how and when did this happen? Is Angel correct that Spike must have used magic of some sort to cause this sudden change of heart?”
There was a pause as everyone realized that without knowing what they did about Buffy’s true age, Spike’s soul, and their lengthy history together, there was no reason for Wesley not to be extremely doubtful about Buffy’s casual acceptance of their relationship.
“I guess it does seem kind of sudden to you,” Buffy began cautiously. “But we’ve had plenty of time to work together since then and… it just seemed like a good idea last year. A little insurance in case—"
Wesley's skeptical look didn't change, and Buffy looked at Giles and Winston. "Help?" she said meekly.
Giles spoke for her. "I think the best we can do for you at this time, Wesley, is to say that your boss knowingly tied the Slayer to him without her knowledge or permission, and that when she realized it, the connection was broken and she is much happier now."
"You don't trust me," Wes said flatly, leaning back in his chair. "You trust William the Bloody and a slayer with a history of relationships with vampires, but you don't trust me." His face and voice were expressionless, but Buffy could see the pain and anger in his eyes.
Giles shifted uncomfortably. "We do not trust Angel quite as much as we may have before this revelation. And you are his employee and friend, are you not?"
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